Loving Yet Powerful, the Fire of Saffron in Perfumery

By Jo Phillips

Saffron, the delicate fiery orange-yellow-red strands that grow from the beautiful yet simple Crocus flower. From England via India, Australia to Iran, this flower pops her head upbringing with her the most expensive spice in the world.  The red stigma of the flowering purple Crocus Sativus tastes floral and earthy and gifts the world of scent with rich notes including hints of leathery, spicy facets and even a faint hit of honey. As much a flower used in formal gardens it is an intricate ingredient in the world of perfumery

The history of the seemingly unassuming little flower is intertwined with legions and myths. In Greek mythology Smilax, a nymph and a female deity was in love with a mortal youth who became known as Crocos. He was, however, unhappy with his love affair and was turned into the plant bearing the floral name.

Another myth describes Hermes, the protector of human travellers, merchants, and orators who wounded his friend Crocos by accident. Blood dripping from Crocos’s head fell on the ground, where Hermes changed it into a flower. Zeus, king of the Gods is said to have slept on a bed of saffron.

This ‘golden’ spice travelled around the world starting in western Asia the Arabic peninsulas, on passages known as silk routes. The Northern Silk Road brought to China many goods such as Dates, Saffron powder, Pistachio nuts,  Frankincense, and Myrrh alongside other expensive and desirable goods from other parts of the world. These would have been exchanged for bolts of silk and porcelain. Many of these expensive items would then travel on to Europe to the Italian port of Venice.

Both luxury goods and daily necessities were exchanged in the markets of Venice, from salt and grain to porcelain and pearls. Alongside local fruit and vegetables gems, mineral dyes, peacock feathers, spices, exotic flowers and plants, and a profusion of textiles such as silks, cotton and brocades from Egypt, Asia Minor and the Far East all passed through the ports of Venice. These were taken on by Venetian merchants to Europe, where they were becoming highly desirable and valuable items.

And it is the meeting of this spicey Ore with Venetian craft that brings about a delicious new scent. A meeting of Terrazzo flooring a composite material, used for floors and walls consisting of chips of marble, quartz, granite, and glass, that was renowned in 18th Venice and used for flooring and pavements.

Imagine a Venetian market the pavement with glittering stones sparkling in golden sunshine, walk past the fruit vendor with local lemon and other bright citrus bounty sitting next to the stall where deep red Saffon is piled high. This is Zafferano a scent in a historic celebration of the intertwining of the red gold spice with Italian culture and craft.

Opening as glowing as the summer sun in Venice, so find brightness and zing from Italian natives’ Bergamot and Mandarin mulled with bitter Orange and soft spice from Coriander seed. The heart of the perfume crosses continents with both spice and floral contenders. dancing with Jasmine Sambac, majestic Rose and creamy floral Orange blossom all swirl with the golden Saffron. The base brings everything together with creamy warmth from Vanilla and Tonka bean alongside the animalic earthiness of Patchouli.

The hard flooring the soft spice the darkness and the lightness the kiss of the sun with the doeth of earth; a sense of light and shade if you like.

This fragrance sits in Acqua di Parma the Signatures of the Sun Collection that looks to celebrate an ingredient into something unexpected and vibrant; elegant powerful yet nuanced.

Here in the fragrance, this extraordinary flower and her offering are celebrated. Blooming only once a year the stigmas need to be delicately removed from hand-picked flowers first thing in the morning as the sun first enters the floral buds.

In order to produce 1 gram of this precious gold spice that is dried saffron, a colossal of 15,000-16,000 flowers is needed. This variation of saffron used in this elixir is one of the rarest in the world and has the highest price in weight of any ingredient on the planet.

Saffron historical, opulent, elegant and powerful is the stuff of legends, Cleopatra has even been depicted bathing in a saffron bath.  With many medicinal benefits including anti-depressant and anti-cancer properties, it is wonderous.  Alongside its culinary in both sweet and savoury dishes, it is a much-adored note in perfumery, one that is as rich as it is golden and now a little more obtainable via Acqua Di Parma’s Zaffrano

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